Ending free vaccines a "slap in the face", mum tells council

DANA’S LEGACY: Alison Gaylard, Ballina Shire councillor Sue Meehan and Toni McCaffery.
DANA’S LEGACY: Alison Gaylard, Ballina Shire councillor Sue Meehan and Toni McCaffery. Rebecca Lollback

EMOTIONAL deputations from Toni McCaffery, who lost her baby Dana to whooping cough in 2009, and Alison Gaylard from the Northern Rivers Vaccination Supporters Group, have prompted action from Ballina Shire councillors.

Ms McCaffery yesterday told councillors it was a "slap in the face" when it was announced earlier this month that subsidised vaccinations for pregnant mothers would be wound back.

"Dana is the reason why the program is actually in place," she said.

"They (the doctors) told me she just had a runny nose, that it was a cold. Five days later she was dead.

"I cannot explain to you the agony she went through.

"Research has showed the booster program for mums has worked - if the mum has the booster before she has the baby, the risk is halved.

"But now, out of the blue, the government has decided to stop it. It's such a slap in the face.

"We've started a petition now NSW Health has taken this approach."

Ms McCaffery and Ms Gaylard sat in the gallery holding hands as the councillors debated Cr Sue Meehan's motion to write to the State and Federal health ministers to oppose winding back vaccinations.

Cr Meehan said there was a clear need for vaccination locally.

"As a schoolteacher I have seen whooping cough go through a classroom in days," she said.

"It's very infectious. Sadly, babies die. Children also lose sleep and weight, they have seizures and they really get very sick."

An emotional Cr Keith Williams congratulated Ms McCaffery for her bravery and hard work.

"I have a three-year-old boy. The thought that we might lose a child because we live in an area where a lot of children have not been vaccinated has scared my wife and I. It's a nightmare," he said.

He also slammed Bangalow-based Australian Vaccination Network for spreading "misinformation".

The council will write to the State and Federal health ministers and Ballina MP Don Page to express their opposition to the winding back.

Councillors also said they hoped other councils on the Northern Rivers would take a similar approach.


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